Natasha Kirsch
Julie Denesha / / KCUR

Natasha Kirsch was volunteering at an alcoholic and addict recovery home when the idea—and a well-timed phone call — came to her.

Sitting in the business office, Kirsch said, it would not be unusual for eight to 10 women to be sitting on the couch outside, asking for help finding and getting a job. They needed the income and the stability — many had several kids and few resources.

But there was a problem: Most were high school dropouts with low reading levels, many had felonies on their records. What job skills could they market? And who would hire them? 

Ged Carroll / Flickr-CC

When it comes to technology, there's something new every week — especially in Kansas City, where gigabit internet has fostered entrepreneurial growth and attracted tech developers from across the country.

Along with new products, businesses and ideas, are new words, phrases and jargon. And a lot of this insider language, which startup savvy people use casually, can be frustrating to someone from the outside. 

Ben Kittrell, who is a Kansas City entrepreneur and consultant, frequently acts as a technical translator for his clients.

Mike Foster
Julie Denesha / / KCUR

Some innovators develop something completely new. Others take something that everyone thought was working fine and make it better.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In 2009, Mary Kay O'Connor was preparing to restart her consulting business. Her specialty was collecting customers' stories to provide meaningful feedback to her clients. The Affordable Care Act was in the news, and she became interested in the data collected by the federal government — data that showed hospitals performing poorly but without much information on how they could improve.

She may not have been the typical startup entrepreneur – but an idea took hold.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

EyeVerify, a Kansas City company building a customer and investor base around the globe, was founded by Toby Rush, its CEO, who went looking for a new place to invest his time and resources in early 2011.

Kansas City, Missouri is in the midst of hiring a new Chief Innovation Officer, but what exactly does that job entail? The position, which is common in tech firms, is a relatively new trend in local governments. 


  • Chris Hernandez is the Director of Communications for Kansas City, Missouri.
  • Jeffrey Stinson covers the business of government for Stateline, which reports on trends in state government for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR

We live in a time where pretty much anything you need can come right to your door, thanks to technology — that is, if you live in a big city like New York or San Francisco.

Whether it’s driving services like Uber, groceries that come right to your door, on-demand laundry, or someone who will come over in a minute to change a light bulb — the proliferation of these services, available through an app, has created what the start-up world calls “The Convenience Economy.”

But a trend that has exploded in big cities has been slower to arrive in the Kansas City metro.

Blake Miller, Partner & Director of the Accelerator at Think Big Partners in Kansas City attributes part of that to the physical layout of the city.

“A lot of it is our sprawl, we’re 319 square miles of a city. For a lot of these companies to become truly successful it’s [about] density and the clusters of people around it,” Miller told Up To Date host Steve Kraske.

That sprawl, Miller says, has led to a driving culture in the metro.

Cody Newill / KCUR

A group of Web developers from across the globe gathered in Lawrence's Liberty Hall over the weekend to celebrate the 10th anniversary of "Django," a Web application framework with Kansas roots.

In 2005, Web developers at the Lawrence Journal World created Django to help journalists put stories on the Web quickly. Now, it's used in a wide variety of websites and apps, such as Instagram, Pinterest and the Washington Times. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR

Like many entrepreneurs, Henry Bloch’s first business idea wasn’t the one that took off.

Henry and his brother, Richard Bloch, opened a small, bookkeeping office at Westport Road and Main Street in Kansas City. In 1955, they had decided to stop preparing tax returns, but an ad salesman for the Kansas City Star had a different idea.

1 Minute Candidate

Mere hours are left before the polls open for the Kansas City Missouri, elections — but are you informed about the candidates?

According to one Kansas City entrepreneur, millennial voters aren’t getting the information they need to make an educated vote — and he’s trying to change that with 1MinuteCandidate.co, a company that aims to quickly inform voters about candidates with 60-second videos.

Voter turnout among millennials has been extremely low, especially in municipal elections. According to an analysis of Kansas City election board data by local civic organization mySidewalk, three times more people over the age of 80 voted in the April 9 primaries than people under 30.

Alyson Raletz / KCUR

Tom Paolini makes custom suits for a living, so it stands to reason that he goes out and about in Kansas City wearing spiffy, fashion-forward suits.

"I'm looking forward to the day where I'm wearing a suit and I don't get a compliment," Paolini said on Central Standard. "Right now, you're more the exception."

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas City boasts being one of the best cities to launch a startup. But the city that hopes to be America’s “most entrepreneurial city,” is still missing one key ingredient — seed capital to get young businesses of the ground.

KCSourceLink, which is a network of organizations that support the creation of small businesses, released a study last week detailing the city’s shortcomings when it comes to funds available for entrepreneurs.

Among the many challenges that Kansas City entrepreneurs face, access to funding is one of the greatest. On this edition of Up To Date, we discuss efforts underway in Kansas City to create more opportunities for young businesses in the area.    


Maria Carter / KCUR

Development, even redevelopment, isn’t unusual in the Kansas City area, but concrete examples of successfully working across state or county borders to do that are harder to come by. Yet that’s what happening at the district surrounding 47th and Mission.

Risk and reward are part of the game when it comes to being an entrepreneur, but cracking the code for success requires more than just drive and luck.

On Monday's Up to Date,  the specific skills that can lead to triumph in an innovative venture. From failing wisely to finding the gap, there’s a variety to master.


daveynin / Flickr--CC

Kansas City has been named one of the top five cities, globally, for entrepreneurs. So it's no surprise that entrepreneur has become kind of a buzzword around here.

During Central Standard's first Buzz Kill session, small business consultant Dodie Jacobi reflected on widespread misuse of the word and all its permutations.

In a new series called Buzz Kill, Central Standard is looking at Kansas City's buzzwords with the people who best understand the true meaning of our favorite catch-phrases. 

In this installment, we ask what it really means to be an entrepreneur, how you pronounce the word, and how to correctly use it in a sentence. It's an important step for us to take, as a city, if we want to be known for our entr... entrep... entrepreneurial spirit.



From FitBits to Smart watches and Google Glass, tech developers want to incorporate their products into our everyday uniforms. But as the makers of Google Glass found out in January, creating wearable technology that people actually want to use is harder than they they thought. 

Courtesy Photo / The Lean Lab

Last weekend, innovative minds from all over the Kansas City area competed in Kansas City Startup Weekend EDU.

More than 22 teams pitched their ideas for improving education through technology, and from those, nine were selected to work with mentors and turn them into real-life applications.

The winning team, MYLearningKC is developing an app that will teach Japanese though a game.

Keith Williamson / Flickr, Creative Commons

So, you want to go into business for yourself. Live the dream. Become your own boss. What's the best attitude to have going into it, and what are the practical steps you should take to lay the groundwork? Plus, how to ensure you're building a dream, rather than a nightmare.


Elle Moxley / KCUR

Two years ago, metro-area entrepreneurs started buying houses in the first Kansas City, Kan., neighborhood to get Google Fiber.

They wanted to take advantage of the ultra-fast Internet as they launched new ventures in what quickly became known as the Kansas City Startup Village.

The plan was to create a community of entrepreneurs on either side of State Line Road. But because the two states have different economic incentives for new businesses, many entrepreneurs gravitated toward the Kansas side of the Startup Village.

Lean Lab

The Sprint Accelerator, is a sleek, modern communal work space occupying two floors of an old brick building in Kansas City’s Crossroads neighborhood. It has white board walls and tables for entrepreneurs to sketch out their ideas. It features massive oddly shaped chairs, lots of sunlight, and the startup-requisite game room featuring indoor shuffleboard and foosball.

Since the 1970s, small businesses have provided a net of two-thirds of all new jobs. Today, they create 55 percent of all jobs in this country. Three local entrepreneurs, who make up part of this trend, appeared on Up to Date to talk about about starting and sustaining a small business in the Kansas City area.

Photoguyinmo / Flickr-CC

Whether it’s a bakery or a tech firm, running your own business is no cakewalk. Developing one from the ground up takes a lot of hard work and planning.

On Tuesday's Up to Date, we talk with some local entrepreneurs about how they got started, the difficulties they encounter and what the future might hold for them. We also talk about why their relationship with the community matters so much and how they stay profitable. 


Cody Newill / KCUR

A new program is taking an entrepreneurial approach to tackling the longstanding problem of education in Kansas City, Mo. 

The Lean Lab at the Sprint Accelerator will announce six projects to help area schools Friday afternoon. 

For the past four weeks, fellows at the Lean Lab have been cooking up practical, simple ideas to reinvigorate education in Kansas City.

For example, one fellow is working on a grading system that will use smartphones and tablets to help track students' progress assignment by assignment. 

Jamie Burks / The Good Food Blog

At a farm in Kansas City, Kan., a group of young men from are developing their entrepreneurship skills through farming. Boys Grow, a non-profit agency, works with these kids to develop business skills as they sell their agricultural commodities.

On Wednesday's Central Standard, we talked to two of these boys about their experience with Boys Grows and their hopes for the future.


Kansas City Opens 'Dead Letter Office'

Jul 8, 2014
Google Images - CC

Last month, the city of Kansas City, Mo., opened what they’re calling a 'Dead Letter Office,' which is actually a website where the residents and business owners can petition to repeal out-of-date city regulations.

Assistant City Manager Rick Usher focuses on small businesses and entrepreneurship. He says due to Kansas City’s long history, some of the old rules are still in the books.

“Kansas City you know we’re over 150 years old. The city has weathered every economic, political, social, environmental crisis that has occurred through those times,” Usher said.

If figuring out how to fix education in Kansas City is a puzzle, then the founders of The Lean Lab say their fellowships should provide the pieces.

"Each fellow has to commit to impacting 500 students over the course of five years," says Carrie Markel, the group's chief operating officer. "If we incubate 20 fellows a year, in less than 20 years we would impact all 70,000 students in the Kansas City city limits."

Cara McClain / KCUR

Entrepreneurship group 1Week KC wants to make Kansas City a top destination for innovative businesses and start-ups, a goal they're promoting with a week-long celebration that began Monday.

The obstacles and challenges that entrepreneurs face are wide and varied, but here is what some of the people who attended this week's events had to say about the climate in Kansas City:

Biswarup Ganguly / Wikimedia Commons

This week, innovators in mobile technology descend upon Kansas City for the Mobile Midwest conference hosted by Kansas City IT Professionals (KCITP.) Among them is Raj Singh, the developer of a mobile calendar application that goes beyond storing and retrieving scheduling information. This application is actually designed to help you make your appointments, arrive at meeting places and in some cases, communicate with your colleagues to let them know you're running late.